The Way Most People Do Most Things

Robert Paul Wolff, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has a delightful blog called “The Philosopher’s Stone.” A few days ago, he wrote an enchanting little post that he has allowed me to re-post here:

Inasmuch as today is my seventy-seventh birthday, I feel an obligation to pass on to you youngsters some of the great wisdom I have acquired in more than three-quarters of a century. That, I believe, is the traditional role of the old men and women of the tribe as they sit around the fire in the evening. The readers of this blog are the closest thing I have to a tribe, so herewith a pearl of wisdom. As is appropriate on such occasions, I begin with a story from long ago.

Back in the early seventies [when the late unlamented Richard Nixon was as yet an undisgraced president], I was sitting around with several UMass colleagues gossiping, as was our wont, about a mutual friend. He had just been elevated from the faculty to a Deanship, and we were speculating about what sort of administrator he would be. Since he had not even served as a Department Chair, we had no track record on which to base our speculations, so we were very much at a loss. Then Zina Tillona, a Professor of Italian in the Romance Languages Department [since phased out as part of a long, tragic world-wide assault on the Humanities] offered a bit of folk wisdom that, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I now recognize as truly profound.   Continue reading “The Way Most People Do Most Things”